Category Archives: guest blogging

Grace O’Malley-Pirate

This is my 3rd and last post for “Women’s History Month” highlighting strong women through history. The first, about Russian sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko, can be found here. The second, featuring female pirate Anne Bonny, can be found here. Since I’m apparently obsessed with female pirates, I thought I’d continue the trend with a look at Grace O’Malley…

Born in 1530, Grace O’Malley was yet another “high-spirited” Irish woman. O’Malley was born into nobility and so was well educated. Regarded as formidable, when her father (chieftain of his clan) died, she inherited his large shipping and trading business, giving her a good start on piracy 🙂 Growing up, she’d always ask to join the fleets but was refused. Rumor has it that when she was told she couldn’t sail with her father because her hair was too long and would be caught in the rigging, she hacked it off. She was still not allowed to sail. It’s poetic justice that she inherited the business and became quite wealthy as a result.

Grace O'Malley00

Grace O’Malley meeting with Elizabeth I

Rejecting the traditional role of a sixteenth century woman, she commanded hundreds of men and 20 ships on raids of rival clans and merchant ships. When her half-brother and sons were captured by the English governor of Connacht, she petitioned Queen Elizabeth I to release them from prison and the two women struck a bargain. Prepared to hold up her end, once O’Malley realized the agreed-to stipulations had not been met, she went back to supporting revolutionary uprisings against the English. Grace O’Malley lived to be 70 years old and continued to be a thorn in the side of the English until her death.

That’s it for my posts celebrating Women’s History Month. I plan to post the occasional kick-ass women article as and when I can (which, let’s be honest, will be haphazard at best. I tend to identify with the slow, erratic blog movement). In honor of Independent Women everywhere, I leave you with this hilarious video of Kristen Bell and Pinksourcing. Enjoy!


Guest Post by Mystery Author Paty Jager

Today I’m thrilled to have a guest post by mystery author Paty Jager. I met Paty online years ago through Sisters in Crime, and actually got to physically meet her a couple of years back in Portland at Left Coast Crime. She’s gracious, and interesting, and writes the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series featuring a Native American female sleuth. Without further ado, here’s Paty:

Thank you for having me on your blog! It was almost two years ago this time of year that I was cover for Double Duplicityexcited about my first, soon-to-be published mystery. The Shandra Higheagle Mystery series I’d imagined was coming to life.

Mysteries have always been my favorite books to read and while I’d tried writing a couple mysteries years ago when I first started writing novels, I’d swayed away to write western romance.  The lure of writing a mystery wouldn’t go away. I plotted out the main character, Shandra Higheagle. She’s a potter with a Native American father who is deceased and a Caucasian mother who remarried. Shandra’s Native American heritage was kept from her by her mother and stepfather.

As the series begins, Shandra attends her Nez Perce grandmother’s funeral and realizes what she has missed all these years, by first being kept away, and later staying away, due to being uncertain how she would be received. But the funeral is a turning point in her journey back to her father’s people. It also begins dreams where her grandmother visits her, dropping clues to who murdered a gallery owner Shandra is suspected of killing.

The weapon in this murder was something that had been stirring in my mind for many years. My brother is an artist who not only sculpts his own bronze statues he patinas for other artists. He told me about a large statue that was in pieces and how it would make a great weapon because no one would be able to figure it out. That inspired Double Duplicity, the first book in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series. You can download this book for free at all ebook venues, or click here to go to the book’s page on my website where you can find the main ebook vendor links.

If you want to learn more about Shandra you can find the info here.

banner Jager books

This first book of the series published January 2015. Since then Shandra and Detective Ryan Greer have solved mysteries in 7 books, the seventh having published this month. Yuletide Slaying is a mystery set at Christmas time in the town of Huckleberry, Idaho. This book has been getting great reviews. I’m happy to hear how much everyone is enjoying this story. When I came up with the idea to write a Christmas mystery, I knew I had to make Shandra’s big, scaredy-cat dog the one who found the body. Sheba has been a fun secondary character in the books, and I wanted to give her a bigger role in the Christmas book.

cover for Yuletide Slaying

Here is the blurb for Yuletide Slaying: Book 7 of the Shandra Higheagle mystery series:

Family, Revenge, Murder

When Shandra Higheagle’s dog brings her a dead body in a sleigh full of presents, her world is turned upside down. The man is a John Doe and within twenty-four hours another body is found.

Detective Ryan Greer receives a call that has them both looking over their shoulders. A vengeful brother of a gang member who died in a gang war is out for Ryan’s blood. Shandra’s dreams and Ryan’s fellow officers may not be enough to keep them alive to share Christmas.

Buy Links:  Amazon / Nook / Apple / Kobo  / Windtree Press

author photo

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure.  This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

blog / websiteFacebook / Paty’s Posse / Goodreads / Twitter / Pinterest

Guest Post and Another Giveaway

YUCATAN DEAD’s being featured on Fundinmental this week. Not only did Sherry give it a fabulous 5* review, but she let me do a guest post about creating the characters of Kate and Leine 🙂 Please do stop by: if you leave a comment, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win your choice of either YUCATAN DEAD or A ONE WAY TICKET TO DEAD (eBook).

Here’s the link:


Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Autumn, 1573.jpg

Autumn by Giuseppe Arcimboldo



Guest Post: That Song Inside Me

by Lise McClendon

Songwriters and literary writers have much in common, the creative use of words, imagery and emotion conveyed in a stylized manner, and often the subject matter itself. The love song and the love story have provided endless twists on the human need for affection and belonging. Whether a poet or a novelist, a folk singer or a classically trained violinist, a writer of haiku or 150,000-word novels, the muse flows through her, in word or song.

cover for One O'clock JumpIt’s probably not surprising that writers can get inspired by a song or a style of music. A writer may hear a theme or be turned onto a cause by a popular song. Music can define an era like the sixties and be an outlet for and expression of societal change. Writing a historical novel means familiarizing yourself with everything current in that time, including fashions, slang, and popular music. When I wrote the mystery, One O’clock Jump, set in 1939 Kansas City, the music of Count Basie informed the whole book. Basie’s band shined in Kansas City and he makes an appearance himself in the story. The title is his most famous song. When I started the novel with a young woman who – seemingly – jumps from a bridge over the Missouri River, it just made sense to make title and event mesh. The follow-up book in my Kansas City series is Sweet and Lowdown, the title of a Gershwin tune that perfectly fit the bad girl in the story.

There have always been novels about music, like High Fidelity and Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. But being inspired by a song or type of music is a bit different than writing about music, bands, and record shops. What I mean instead is finding a way to wrap the feeling evoked by the music into a plot that doesn’t focus on it. What’s the theme of the novel? How does it spring from or reflect the emotion in the music? Mystery and thriller writers often name-drop favorite bands or tunes for effect, mostly because quoting lyrics is a tricky practice legally. We just hope you know the tune.cover for Blackbird Fly

But titles can’t be copyrighted so song titles as book titles are popular in all genres. I did it again when I wrote Blackbird Fly, my novel set in France. The characters in the suspense novel listened to the Beatles as children and have a fondness for their music as adults. Blackbird Fly is a Beatles song (of course) about finding yourself and taking flight into a new life. That describes the arc of Merle Bennett, the main character, whose husband dies and leaves her a house in France and a mess of personal and financial problems. (There is another, more personal connection between the song and Merle which I won’t spoil as she spends the entire book finding it out.) I grew up with the Beatles, too. But I can’t remember exactly when in the process of writing the book I made the connection between my protagonist and the song. It seems embedded in the story like it was always there.

Themes in your fiction are shadowy creatures, darting out of view when you look too close. Music can help you identify a theme, like Blackbird Fly did for me. Of course, there were those five major rewrites. 😀

cover for Girl in the Empty DressAnd what about songs about writing? Songwriters are more prone to write songs about writing songs. But now and then there is some serious crossover. Here’s my list of favorite songs about writing. What can you add?

Every day I Write the Book – Elvis Costello. The classic leads the list
Writing You a Love Letter – Bonnie Raitt. A love letter is definitely creative writing
Oxford Comma – Vampire Weekend. Points for punctuation and the music video
Paperback Writer – The Beatles. You knew that was coming, didn’t you?
Jonathan’s Book – Teddy Thompson. Is this song about Jonathan Franzen? Pretty sure.
Dancing in the Dark – Bruce Springsteen. The boss had me at love reaction: I’m sick of sitting ’round here Trying to write this book.

How does music inform your writing? Do you use it to inspire you?

author Lise McClendonLise McClendon has been publishing fiction for twenty years. Her latest novel is a sequel to Blackbird Fly called The Girl in the Empty Dress. Read more about her fiction at her website and follow her scintillating twitter feed at @LiseMcClendon.

Guest Post: Breaking All The Rules

by Yves Fey

(or Breaking All Elmore Leonard’s Rules)

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Long before I learned these were best-seller Elmore Leonard’s rules, I heard them touted in the mystery community, and some in romance as well. Elmore Leonard was definitely a master, tightly plotted, great dialogue, sharp action. When he died recently, his rules were suddenly everywhere. I was reminded how I loathe just about every single one of them.

For one thing, it’s that they are called RULES. Anything called a rule is likely to make me bristle. As rules, they are okay for writing an Elmore Leonard style thriller, but even then I’d break a few. For writing anything else, it’s crossed swords at dawn in the Bois de Boulogne.cover for Dark Shadow

Rule #1. Never open a book with weather. Why not, if there’s a hurricane coming? Why not, if your setting is an important character? There are a lot of masterpieces out there that open with the weather. This includes that masterpiece of detective fiction, Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep—the weather followed by what Phillip Marlowe is wearing, so a double rule breaker. It also includes, very briefly, the opening of Leonard’s Get Shorty.

Rule #2. Avoid prologues. I heard this one touted as gospel. Readers think prologues aren’t important and skip them. Despite my scorn for any reader who thinks a writer would open a book with something unimportant, I have tended to follow this “rule.” I do not cut the prologue—I call it Chapter 1. See how unimportant it was? I would rather call it a prologue if it’s set several months in advance of the main action, but I don’t want readers skipping it. How many actually do? Is this apocryphal? There was an excellent blog post out there recently about all the recent bestsellers that opened with prologues, Like Water for Elephants and Life of Pi among them. In my next book, I think I will be defiant and call my prologue a prologue…

Rule #3. “Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue,” he said. “Years before I heard this rule,” she said, “I read a page and a half of a different bestselling author’s short terse dialogue, with “he said” after every sentence,” she said. “I mean ghastly,” she said. “Chinese water torture,” she said. “No, too subtle,” she said. “Sledge hammer!” she said – using a forbidden exclamation point. “Have I made my point?” she said.

Rule #4. Never use an adverb to modify the word “said,” he admonished gravely. This one gets blown up to never use an adverb. I mean, throw out a whole part of speech? Yes, look for strong verbs. But sometimes the strong verb isn’t there, and what you need to convey exactly what you want is a, gasp, adverb,” she said mockingly, tartly, nastily, uncertainly, snottily, icily, viciously, pompously. Guess what, adverbs can change the meaning of “said”.

Rule #5. Keep your exclamation points under control—you are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. Okay. You can use that guideline, not rule, guideline, to check on your bangs. But if you need a few more, use them. You’ll especially want them if you can’t use exclaimed. “Don’t ever (my rule) use them with said!” she said.

Rule #6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.” Suddenly actually means something. I have tried many times just to have what’s happening happen without it, and not have the action itself able to convey suddenness or abruptness. I do use it sparingly because of this “rule.” I wouldn’t ever use “all hell broke loose” except in the dialogue of someone who’d use the cliché.

Rule #7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Sparingly. Yep. I actually mostly agree, but some writers are very skilled at doing it.

Rule #8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. Some readers really don’t like to have characters described. Okay. Guess what? Other readers love to have characters described. So, write for the camp you’re in. Meanwhile, let me ask you a few questions. What does Scarlett O’Hara look like? And darling Rhett? What does Sherlock look like? What does Gandalf look like? Gollum?

Rule #9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things. Ditto the above for whether you want to do this or not. I love Tolkien. I love Thomas Hardy. I love writers who tell me what the world I’m wandering in looks like. I also appreciate writers who can make me feel as if they have when they haven’t. I don’t much like writers who make me feel like the people and places don’t exist except as flat squiggly letters on a page.

Rule #10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Okay. I’ll try to do that, as long as they’re skipping the parts I want to skip, because I try to write what I like to read.


Photo of the authorFloats the Dark Shadow is Yves Fey’s first historical mystery, set in the dynamic and decadent world of Belle Époque Paris. It won several 2013 Indie awards–a Silver IPPY in the Best Mystery category, a Finalist Award in the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards in mystery, and it was one of four Finalists in both History and Mystery in the Next Generation Indie Awards. It’s available in hardback, paperback, Kindle, and now as an audio book.

Previously Yves wrote four historical romances set in the Italian Renaissance, Medieval England, and Elizabethan England. She will soon be republishing these under her own name of Gayle Feyrer.

Yves has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon, and a BA in Pictorial Arts from UCLA. She has read, written, and created art from childhood. A chocolate connoisseur, she’s won prizes for her desserts. Her current fascination is creating perfumes. She’s traveled to many countries in Europe and lived for two years in Indonesia. She currently lives in the San Francisco area with her husband Richard Anderson, also a writer, and three cats, Marlowe the Investigator, and the Flying Bronte Sisters.



Guest Post: Dream Up Some Publicity Ideas

By Nancy Jarvis

I woke up one morning about a month ago with this crazy idea for promoting books, and being addled in the morning before my first cup of coffee, decided it was a viable one.

I’m not new to trying whatever publicity idea occurs to me in a fit of creativity…scratch that…fit of silliness. My cat Fala (as in the Christmas melody Falla lalla la la la la la) recently had a mention in Ladies’ Home Journal because they were doing an article on pets with strange names. She has her own YouTube video about the perils of living with a mystery writer, so it seemed like a good idea if she added another media accomplishment to her resume.

(If any of you looked at the video and are curious, I used Fiverr to have someone animate her. My out-of-pocket for that was five dollars.)

When my first book came out, I pitched an article to Realtor Magazine which goes to every Realtor in the country because my protagonist is a Realtor and because I was a licensed Realtor at the time. I did a little research: I was the country’s only licensed real estate agent writing mysteries with a Realtor protagonist. It sounds more impressive than it is—kind of like the statistic that one sixth of all people die within two months of their birthday—but it was a good pitch and using it combined with what I did for a living got me a lot of publicity.

There was a little story in The Costco Connection—which goes to Costco’s entire membership—about my second mystery, Backyard Bones. It got there because I noticed some small print in the magazine that said they liked to know what their members were up to and told them. Think about your memberships; they can be useful for more than saving money.

Lend a helping voice. Thanks to HARO (Help a Reporter Out), which is a wonderful source of publicity opportunities, I worked a story about people taking Social Security at 62 into a pitch for my books. The reporter liked my angle and put me in her article which was on CNN/Money,, and

Use what’s in your book to get publicity. Recently I was interviewed for Bloomberg News about what buyers are willing to do to attract a seller’s attention in a hot market. I suggested the reporter read pages 59 and 60 of Buying Murder. My newest mystery, The Murder House, may have ghosts in it and now some ghost hunting sites want me to discuss the book.cover for Murder House

Using what we know and who we are connected with is a great way to get publicity. It’s easier for non-fiction writers or for fiction writers who happen to have written a book about a “hot topic” to get the word out about their books, but as you can see, all fiction writers have opportunities.

You can also get publicity close to home. Contact local newspapers and tell them one of their readers has written a new book. Most will at least squeeze a mention of your book into their publication; many will give you an article complete with pictures.

Approach groups in your community and offer to be free entertainment for them. I’m not a member of the Kiwanis Club, Rotary, a retired school teacher group, a government worker organization, or a senior citizen group, but all have had me speak. All sorts of groups would all like to hear what a member of the community has accomplished. They will probably give you a meal and many of their members will buy your book, especially when you inscribe a copy as a gift for their favorite aunt. In this vein, don’t forget to look for retirement communities and even large mobile home communities for speaking engagements.

Sadly, my hometown has been losing bookstores. Fortunately I live in a tourist town and my books are set in that location. I suggested to local store owners with tourist traffic that people would find it entertaining to read a book about where they are visiting. Turns out I was right and some of those stores sell more books than our remaining local bookstore. Look for your community’s odd venues and ask to do a book signing; it’s a great excuse for more publicity in the local media for you and the venue hosting you.

So, what’s the idea I had in the wee hours of the morning? Form a publicity co-op. I write cozy-style mysteries and it turns out many writers do. Books in that genre often have recipes and food associated with them; we could do a cookbook. My idea wasn’t terribly original. There have been mystery writer cookbooks and several big publishers have put together cookbooks featuring recipes from their stable of writers. But a book of recipes from more than a hundred cozy mystery writers, well, that’s a new publicity-worthy spin. Cozy Foods will be out next month and I bet every writer who contributed a recipe will tweet, put something about the book on their blog and their Facebook page, and tell their friends about the book. And that’s just for starters.


photo of the authorNancy Lynn Jarvis thinks you should try something new every few years. Writing is her newest adventure and she’s been having so much fun doing it that she’s finally acknowledged she’ll never sell another house. She let her license lapse in May of 2013, after her twenty-fifth anniversary in real estate.

After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC.

She invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. Real estate details and ideas come from Nancy’s own experiences.

To keep her writing fresh, she took a time out from mysteries to write “Mags and the AARP Gang,” a comedy about a group of renegade octogenarian bank robbers and is now almost in the midst of editing “Cozy Food,” a cozy mystery cookbook.

You can find out more about Nancy and her books on her website, Facebook and Amazon


Guest Blog: Donna Fletcher Crow

[I’ve got a special treat for all you Jane Austen fans out there. My guest blogger today writes mysteries featuring an English lit professor and highlights a different figure from literature in each installment–her latest novel is titled A Jane Austen Encounter. Please welcome literary suspense author Donna Fletcher Crow. Take it away, Donna!]


All of the stories in my Elizabeth and Richard literary suspense series have grown out my own experiences. And I guess that makes sense, since, like Elizabeth, I was an English literature teacher— although certainly never department head as she was. And since the concept of the series is to feature a different figure from literature in each book they are, naturally, my favorite authors. Of course, as many favorites as I have this could turn out to be quite a lengthy series.Cover for Shadow of Reality

The first book The Shadow of Reality, which features the work of my favorite mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers, was based on a mystery weekend my husband and I attended at Mohonk Mountain House, high in the Adirondacks.

I moved the mystery week Elizabeth drags Richard to closer to home in the Rocky Mountains and Elizabeth was thrilled. The setting was all her fantasies come true: an elegant English manor house in the 1930’s. And he was even more thrilled by the lead actor in the dramatized murder: Sir Gavin Kendall— sophisticated, brilliant, rich and captivated by her. Until murder intervened.

cover for A Midsummer's Eve NightmareA Midsummer Eve’s Nightmare is set in Ashland, Oregon, at their annual Shakespeare Festival which our family attended regularly for many years— until Boise developed a really fine festival of our own.

It was the perfect place to send two literature professors off on their honeymoon. And Elizabeth and Richard thought so, too. Bliss. Until they find that Desdemona’s brilliantly acted death scene wasn’t acted and Elizabeth’s costume designer sister and her actress roommate are terrified that they are slated to be the next victims.

Then my life and career got full of other projects— as did Elizabeth and Richard’s. Apparently they were too busy to solve crimes alongside their teaching. Or perhaps they simply didn’t find themselves tripping over any dead bodies— because suddenly here they are, celebrating their twentieth wedding anniversary with a trip to England in A Jane Austen Encounter.

Devout Janeites, like their creator, it’s Elizabeth and Richard’s dream vacation—visiting all Jane Austen’s homes. But not even the overpowering personality of their Oxford guide nor the careful attentions of their new friends can keep the tour free from lurking alarms. When a box of old documents is donated to the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, Richard volunteers to help sort through it. Later that night, however, he finds the Centre’s director bleeding on her office floor. Could the valuable letter that has gone missing really lead them to new revelations about Jane Austen’s unfinished manuscript The Watsons?cover for A Jane Austen Encounter

My goal as a writer is always to give my readers a “you are there” experience. So readers are invited to come along as my literary sleuths visit all the sites so redolent of Jane Austen and her characters: the beautiful city of Bath, the charming Chawton cottage where Jane’s writing flowered, and the nearby Steventon church where her father was rector and her own faith developed. Stand by her grave in Winchester Cathedral and enjoy your time at the lovely country estate of Godmersham. But don’t let your guard down. Evil lurks even in the genteel world of Jane Austen.

“Playful mystery featuring an engaging pair of amateur sleuths.”
~ Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine


photo of authorDonna Fletcher Crow is the author of 43 books, mostly novels of British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. She is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave, A Darkly Hidden Truth and An Unholy Communion as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the literary suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 13 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.

To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to her website.

You can also follow her on Facebook.

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